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Sept 24, 2013

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UN Staff Unions Protest SG Guterres Gender Parity Plan As UNrealistic, No Consultation, Here

By Matthew Russell Lee, Scoop; Video

UNITED NATIONS, September 21 – After UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres announced his new "gender parity" plan, he was immediately hit with complaints about lack of consultation from the UN staff unions. Inner City Press has obtained their letter, which says: "Wednesday 20 September 2017
Dear Secretary-General, Since coming to office, you have repeated the importance of healthy staff- management relations, especially in the context of many forthcoming reforms.
One of the reforms is your strategy on gender parity. From the start it was made clear that any proposed strategy would be the subject of consultations through
the Staff-Management Committee (SMC), in line with the staff regulations and rules (ST/SGB/2017/1) that you promulgated in January this year.
In May, your office gave a brief presentation of broad ideas relating to the strategy. It noted that the briefing was not a consultation and clarified that once these
ideas were more complete, formal staff-management consultations through SMC would be organized. Confirming this, your office called shortly after for an SMC meeting, to be held on 19 July. Your office then requested that the meeting be postponed to 23 August. On 4 August your office requested a further postponement,
citing the need for further work on the proposals.
On 13 September the strategy was published without warning and with no consultations having taken place.
We trust that you will understand our surprise and disappointment at the turn of events. The strategy, on a subject that matters greatly to the UN, contains important
and specific measures that will affect staff welfare. Not only has this strategy been published without consultation, staff unions were also misled into believing there would be consultations. Further, the strategy document incorrectly claims that staff unions were consulted.
Consultations with staff not only ensure the possibility of staff buy-in, but allow us to seek clarifications that can be shared with our constituents. An example of an issue brought to our attention is that department heads will be held accountable for increasing female participation in the workforce by between four and five percentage points a year. Given that your report to the General Assembly (Composition of the Secretariat – A/72/123) forecasts an annual rate of retirement of 1.8 percent for D staff and 0.5 percent for P staff, and in the context of shrinking budgets and fewer posts, we would be curious to see the mathematical calculations behind these targets.
We further note that the President of the SMC, Mr. David Yeandle, has also expressed his surprise at the way in which the strategy document was issued.
It is unfortunate that the actions taken by your office have undermined the trust of staff in the future of staff-management relations at a time when a number of
important reforms are being planned and especially in light of the letter we wrote to you on 18 August reiterating “our commitment... to work closely with you and your management team on the formulation and implementation of these reforms”.
In order to restore trust in staff-management relations at the UN, we ask that the strategy be submitted to the SMC in draft form, with all recommendations considered tentative pending consultation.
Yours sincerely,
The staff unions of the United Nations:
ESCAP Staff Association
Field Staff Union
Staff Council of ESCWA
Staff Council of ECA
Staff Council of ECLAC
Staff Council of UNHCR
UN Criminal Tribunals Staff Union
UNICEF Global Staff Association
UNOG Staff Coordinating Council
UN Staff Union (New York)
UN Staff Union Nairobi
UN Staff Union Vienna
UN University Staff Council
cc: Ms. Jan Beagle, USG Department of Managment
Mr. David Yeandle, President of the Staff-Management Committee"
We'll have more on this. The UN is limiting access passes during this UN General Assembly week to what it calls “resident correspondents,” many of whom rarely even come into the UN, some whom have never asked any questions. Meanwhile the investigative Press asking the UN every day about UN reform and corruption, Cameroon, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Burundi and elsewhere, is banned from the passes, as are the many journalists working out of the UN Media Center (in which the handler of French President Emmanuel Macron took over a whole row, despite claims there are no assigned seats). The UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, when Inner City Press asked, said le Media Center, ce n'est pas moi. He also said, in a "background" briefing he tried to exclude Inner City Press from, that he would be sending around the "grid" of UNGA events. He never sent it to Inner City Press, nor presumably to the other journalists the UN denies the special "UNCA" passes to. But Inner City Press obtained the grid from a disgusted whistleblower elsewhere in the UN system and now in the spirit of the Free UN Coalition for Access puts it online here, for wider use. (If Scribd stops working, as it sometimes does, it is also on Patreon, here.) Open the UN. On September 15, as Inner City Press worked in the small booth it's confined to since being evicted from the UN Press Briefing Room and its UN office by UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, it saw some insider correspondents passing by and into the Briefing Room. To not fall into a trap, Inner City Press asked UN Media Accreditation what the event was, of which it was not informed. You can go in, it was told. Inside, three senior UN officials we'll leave unnamed were giving a background briefing about Secretary General Antonio Guterres' schedule for the General Assembly week. Inner City Press asked why there are no events about Yemen and Burundi, and told the officials to tell Guterres to ensure that all journalists are treated fairly. Dujarric cut that off and said, "You're here, aren't you?" Only because the other venue he'd tried to invite his friends to was too small and the event was moved. This is how today's UN is working - or not working. This too: Inner City Press has learned that last month, after it asked Dujarric how the UN had vetted a shadowy event co-sponsored as exposed in the Ng Lap Seng / John Ashe trial by a business interest and two developing world countries, Dujarric told the Permanent Representative of one of the sponsors NOT to talk to Inner City Press, it would just write about it. The UN has arrived at the situation in which its holdover spokesman tells member states not to speak to the Press. Now those at the top of the UN know about it - what will they do? They are responsible. New DPI chief Alison Smale has as of yet changed nothing, has not even responded to a petition on the issues. Retaliation for coverage continues, and exclusion or attempted exclusion from UN "Communications." Reform was discussed and even, for once, asked about, but only vaguely. The UN and its affiliates were bribed by Ng Lap Seng, as shown in a trial this summer. No answers. Back last Friday an UNnamed UN speaker in what was declared a background briefing not made available to media coming to cover the GA week told Inner City Press that while it is not a “resident correspondent” - it was evicted while covering the Ng Lap Seng / John Ashe corruption scandal - it could perhaps stakeout for example the Yemen meeting, but only with an “escort.” That is a UN minder, some of whom ask Inner City Press who it is trying to speak to. This is UNacceptable, the Free UN Coalition for Access says, as it the weakened wi-fi and lack of LAN lines for any but the insider correspondents of UNCA. The UNnamed speaker said that the limitation of the access passes was agreed to, or requested by, UN Security and this UNCA (UN Correspondents Association a/k/a UN Censorship Alliance). It was for seeking to cover this group's event in the UN Press Briefing Room, presumptively open to all journalists, to see if they would address having received funds from then indict, now convicted Ng Lap Seng that Inner City Press was evicted and still restricted. We'll have more on this, and access issues before, during and after #UNGA72. The access briefing should have been webcast to journalists coming; UN Security should have been there, and the Department of Public Information leadership reportedly beginning work on September 8 - they have been asked, for reforms. When UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres gave a speech to honor fallen UN staff on September 8, he took the opportunity to say that if the sacrifices of UN staff were known by unnamed UN critics, they wouldn't say what they do. But the UN is in need of reform, which requires critique. And, frankly, sometime UN staff and experts are killed with some role played by UN negligence, for example in Kasai in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The problem with what Guterres said is that it emboldens others in the UN system to simply shout down or vilify critical voices, sometimes to the point of outright physical eviction and restriction, and sometimes short of that. Only the previous day, the acting head of the UN Department of Public Information Maher Nasser on his last day in the post allowed a heckler to block Inner City Press' questions about the UN's duty to the Haitian families impacted by the cholera it brought to the island - then when Inner City Press asked a legal immunity question, to say loudly, It's always about you. Well, DPI did evict Inner City Press with no hearing or appeals, and has restricted it every day since. But speeches such as that on September 8, UNcorrected, validate targeting and censorship. Nasser's successor Alison Smale has been written to, for reversal. And Guterres did tell a moving story about staff in Chad's Abeche - which Inner City Press covered, before DPI's eviction meant it was no longer notified of or allowed to cover UN Security Council trips. Here was from the UN Staff Day Parade of Nations. We'll have more on this. For weeks the UN had promoted its book event about New York City and the UN, featuring author Pamela Hanlon.

But when Inner City Press went and asked about the UN having brought cholera to Haiti and paid nothing, and whether Haitians in Brooklyn had been able to get any accountability from the UN, there was no answer.

A heckler in the audience said loudly that the question was not appropriate. Video here. So Inner City Press followed up on Ms. Hanlon's statement that the land under the UN is still US territory. If so, what of John Ashe selling diplomatic posts from inside his UN General Assembly President's office, and Inner City Press for covering the scandal being thrown out onto First Avenue by eight UN Security officers? Audio here. (NYPD told Inner City Press it has no jurisdiction to take criminal complaints, even for assault, for anything east of the First Avenue curb.)

That question wasn't answered, either, including by Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Office for International Affairs.

Instead Maher Nasser, in charge of the UN Department of Public Information from April 1 until tomorrow, said “it's always about you” and ended the event, encouraging those present to buy books for signing. And so it goes at the UN.


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